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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Disney will close local animation operation

    Nearly 260 artists in Orlando will be out of work after their film was canceled.

    By Todd Pack and Richard Verrier
    Sentinel Staff Writers

    January 10, 2004

    Walt Disney Studios is expected to tell the nearly 260 artists at its Orlando feature-animation studio on Monday that it will close the facility.

    Nearly all of the employees, whose credits include Brother Bear and Lilo & Stitch, are expected to lose their jobs, although some would relocate to Burbank, Calif., sources familiar with the matter said Friday. The sources asked not to be identified because the layoffs had not been made official.

    Disney officials would not comment.

    The company is expected to make the announcement at a staff meeting Monday.

    "We're not expecting any glorious news that we're still employed," said layout artist Craig Grasso, a 10-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida.

    Grasso said he was saddened by the facility's expected closing.

    "This is something that I've always wanted to do," he said of working at the studios.

    "Once it's gone, it's gone."

    Disney's feature-animation facility in Orlando had grown during the past 15 years from a showcase at Disney-MGM Studios theme park into a key production center.

    But under pressure to reduce overhead and consolidate production, Disney already has shuttered animation studios in Paris and Tokyo.

    In all, the studio has cut more than 700 jobs in recent years -- including 50 animators in Orlando last year -- and trimmed animators' salaries as much as 50 percent. The most recent cuts would leave Disney's animation division with a core staff of 600 to 700.

    The Orlando facility's future has been in doubt since Disney abruptly halted work on its only remaining project in November.

    Soon after Disney said it was shutting down A Few Good Ghosts -- about star-crossed lovers reunited by a family of ghosts who inhabit the bodies of folk-art dolls -- recruiters from DreamWorks and other major animation and special effects-studios descended on Orlando.

    Disney artists said Friday that the studios are looking for artists who could help create cartoons using computers rather than old-fashioned pencils and paint.

    The company's Orlando facility used computers to create certain scenes, but most of the work was done by hand -- from designing the film to creating the characters. On average, a feature-length cartoon requires about 1 million drawings.

    Disney pioneered the hand-drawn feature, but audiences in recent years have shown a preference for computer-generated cartoons.

    Finding Nemo, released by Disney but made by the computer-animation studio Pixar, earned the most money of any movie released in 2003, collecting $339.7 million.

    By comparison, Brother Bear, which made limited use of 3-D animation, has grossed $83.3 million to date. The film, which cost about $100 million to make and faced stiff competition over the holidays, may not generate much profit for Disney. It was the company's first animated feature created entirely in Orlando, from the concept to the screen.

    Disney has only one major hand-drawn feature on its schedule, though two are in development. Home on the Range, due out April 2, is a Western about barnyard animals trying to save the family farm.

    Disney's next major animated release will be this fall's The Incredibles, a Pixar cartoon about a family of superheroes forced to hang up their tights and live in the suburbs.

    And although Disney animation chief David Stainton has said "2-D is not dead," the studio's first major animated feature after Pixar's will be the computer-created Chicken Little.

    Despite the attention 3-D animation is getting, a cartoon's success depends less on technology and more on characters and story, said Harry Knowles, owner of the influential movie Web site Ain't It Cool News.

    Sony's 2001 feature Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was widely praised for realistic 3-D animation but earned only about $32 million at the box office because the story, about soul-sucking aliens, left audiences cold, he said.

    And although it relied heavily on low-tech hand-drawn animation, the Orlando-made Lilo & Stitch was a box-office smash, Knowles said. Lilo made nearly $146 million in theaters two years ago.

    "The directors who worked on it in Orlando . . . did a great job," Knowles said.

    Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida is housed at Disney-MGM Studios and is featured in the park's Magic of Disney Animation. The attraction, which was recently updated, is expected to remain open.

    On Friday, few visitors seemed to notice the empty drawing tables and desks, although several wondered where the artists were. One woman told her companion, "This is the best job, if they don't come in before 11."

    When asked where the artists were, a guide said they simply weren't in.
    This is so so sad.

    But the remark on Final Fantasy was great! "the story, about soul-sucking aliens" Best description I read about the movie
    Last edited by amr.ramadan; 01-11-2004 at 07:17 PM.

  2. #2
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    It's shocking. I mean, if I didn't get this already, why would they do this??? Because their animation isn't as good as others???

    There's no animation like Disney. I grew up with Disney! And I still love to go see their movies..
    "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

  3. #3
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    Like IT sector, traditional animation is in crisis. At the moment 3D is the thing and it will take a while, until suits get it, that it has nothing to do with the mouse or pencil, but with the story and how you present it. Some stories are better told in CGI and others in 2D.
    Those 2D artists who can learn and adapt to 3D stuff, will survive much longer and later on, when 2D artists will be needed again, can switch back and forth.
    . Uri .

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